Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault watches a speaker via videoconference during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday, April 17, 2020. The federal government is proposing new policy changes — with monetary penalties — to ensure online streaming platforms experiencing booming revenues face as stringent regulations as traditional broadcasters, which have seen profits decline in recent years THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault watches a speaker via videoconference during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday, April 17, 2020. The federal government is proposing new policy changes — with monetary penalties — to ensure online streaming platforms experiencing booming revenues face as stringent regulations as traditional broadcasters, which have seen profits decline in recent years THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Feds propose changes to Broadcasting Act that may raise $800-million from streamers

The bill will also allow the CRTC to levy monetary penalties for non-compliance

Online platforms like Netflix and Spotify may end up spending more than $800 million on Canadian content over the next three years under a series of policy changes the federal government has proposed in a new bill Tuesday.

The proposed changes to the Broadcasting Act are meant to ensure online streaming platforms experiencing booming revenues face the same regulations as traditional broadcasters, which have seen profits decline in recent years.

“A separate system for online broadcasters simply doesn’t work. This outdated regulatory framework is not only unfair for our Canadian businesses. It threatens Canadian jobs and it undermines our ability to tell our own Canadian story,” said Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault at an Ottawa press conference.

“The government believes that everyone who benefits from the system should contribute to it fairly.”

Guilbeault’s proposed changes centre on creating a new category within the Broadcasting Act for “”online undertakings” that will apply to streamers and broadcasters transmitting programs over the internet.

The changes involve giving new powers to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, an arm’s-length regulator of the broadcast industry.

Those powers could include the ability to force online steaming platforms to make Canadian content more discoverable and to make financial contributions to support Canadian music, stories, creators and producers.

A technical document provided by the government estimates those contributions could reach as much as $830 million by 2023.

The bill will also allow the CRTC to levy monetary penalties for non-compliance, broadcasting when prohibited from doing so or failing to submit information required.

Criticshave long complained that tech giants caught violating the law are often fined paltry amounts that don’t act as a deterrent because they are a mere fraction of the business’s revenues.

Guilbeault did not offer an estimate of how steep penalties could be, but said that he intends to get proposed changes implemented quickly, if they are approved by the House of Commons and Senate.

“We are going as fast as we can,” he said.

“We haven’t reformed he Broadcasting Act since 1991, so it takes time to do it properly, but we don’t want to take too much time because we know that there’s an emergency to act quickly.”

The changes come after years of growing calls from industry players and advocates for foreign tech giants to be regulated in the same manner as Canadian companies.

The push for change was spurred by the increasing numbers of Canadians turning away from traditional broadcasters in favour of streaming platforms like Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime and Crave for video and music.

The government’s technical note said online video services have grown their revenues by 90 per year over the last two years, while Netflix has made its way into 62 per cent of Canadian households.

Netflix said in an emailed statement to The Canadian Press that it is “reviewing the legislation and remain committed to being a good partner to Canada’s creative community while also investing in local economies.”

Netflix reported revenues of $780 million revenue in Canada in the first nine months of the 2019 fiscal year, while the CRTC said the traditional television sector saw its revenues decline on average by 1.8 per cent per year between 2014 and 2018.

On top of facing revenue declines, traditional broadcasters have also had to comply with government demands to support Canadian music and storytelling, but the streaming giants have largely been free of such requirements.

The government will now turn its attention to bridging that gap.

The government’s technical document said it could ask the CRTC to decide which online broadcasters should be regulated, but Guilbeault stressed that user generated content, news content and video games will not fall under the policy.

The CRTC may also be tasked with determining the merits of giving additional regulatory credits to those producing content that is “culturally desirable, but otherwise less likely to be produced, such as supporting Indigenous peoples, French-language creators and racialized and ethno-cultural communities.”

The note said the CRTC may also be ordered to look into what qualifies as Canadian content and whether that definition takes into account tax credits or intellectual property

Even regulatory tools that would provide fair and transparent remuneration for musical artists could be analyzed, the document said.

Guilbeault teased that further regulations could be coming soon to deal with tech giants like Facebook, Google and Apple, which have had tremendous impacts on the revenue of media companies and disrupted advertising.

“We are working on other elements of changes of modernization to the Canadian ecosystems, but these elements will come further down the road.”

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press

Canada

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Snowfall warning issued for Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake and surrounding communities.
Snowfall warning issued for B.C.’s Interior

Between 10 - 15 cms of snow expected in the Prince George, Stuart - Nechako region

Fort St. James Secondary School announced a confirmed incident of COVID-19 exposure at the school. (Black Press file photo)
COVID-19 exposure confirmed at Fort St. James Secondary School

Northern Health will be following up directly with anyone who is identified as a close contact

RDBN board meeting. (Priyanka Ketkar photo/Lakes District News)
Thiessen and Parker re-elected to RDBN board

The board voted unanimously on Nov. 19

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (PIxabay.com)
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Christy Jordan-Fenton is the co-author of the book Fatty Legs, which has been mentioned amid the controversy of an Abbotsford school assignment on residential schools.
Co-author of residential schools book condemns controversial Abbotsford class assignment

Children’s book mentioned amid controversy at W. A. Fraser Middle School

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick (right) moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals pick critics to take on Horgan’s NDP majority

Interim leader Shirley Bond takes seniors, long-term care

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland listens to a question from a reporter on the phone during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Spending too little worse than spending too much, Freeland says as Canada’s deficit tops $381B

‘The risk of providing too little support now outweighs that of providing too much’

Still from a video surveillance camera of a man alleged to have stolen from several people at knife-point in Chilliwack (Rosedale) early on Nov. 28, 2020. (Facebook)
B.C. man defends his family against intruder, saves neighbour while wielding hockey stick

RCMP looking for footage that captures violent crime spree in Chilliwack

Most Read